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Girls Basketball Teams: Achieving Success Through the Connection of Social Emotional Learning (SEL)


Basketball is a sport that demands not only physical but also social and emotional intelligence, which is especially relevant to girls' basketball teams, where players face diverse challenges that require them to communicate, collaborate and persevere. Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to modify and adapt in response to environmental and experiential factors, including social and emotional experiences that can significantly impact brain development and function. Extensive research has highlighted that social and emotional experiences can change brain activity and structure, reinforcing essential social and emotional skills such as communication, collaboration, and self-regulation. Mindfulness and empathy, for instance, are two social and emotional skills that have demonstrated benefits in developing emotional regulation, social cognition, and communication, thus effectively improving the overall well-being of individuals.

In the context of girls' basketball teams, coaches and trainers should prioritize the connection between neuroplasticity and social and emotional learning (SEL) to promote the development of such skills among their players. A practical example is teaching and incorporating mindfulness, empathy, serve and return practices weekly, which can help the players manage their feelings, stress, and anxiety and foster better communication and positive relationships.

For example, the 2023 success of the Parkland Lady Mustangs Girl Basketball program shows the significance of incorporating social and emotional skills development in basketball teams. The team's incorporation of The Feelings Company, The Emotional Intelligent Leader (TIEL), a program whose foundation is love is the most important feeling and combines neuroplasticity and social and emotional intelligence, led to the team's remarkable transition from a record of 2/11 last year to 18/5 this year. In December, the Lady Mustangs won the Mary Garber Christmas Tournament, a local girls' basketball tournament in Winston-Salem, NC. The Lady Mustangs are #1 in the conference, and three players from the team were selected to the all-conference team. Coach Leak, the coach of the Lady Mustangs, was named Conference Coach of the year. The Lady Mustangs have not had a team like this year since 2009.

Now how did the Lady Mustangs achieve their success? It was a TEAM effort. The Feelings Company enlisted the support of a community partner, The Winston-Salem Sportsmen Club, Inc., and met with the Lady Mustangs Team. They asked the Lady Mustangs if they would take a social and emotional journey where no other girls' basketball team had gone. The team said, “yes.” Coach Leak and the athletic director, Linwood Gerald, then presented a statement of need for the program to the principal, who eagerly accepted the proposal. The WSFCS Student Services Department approved the program. At this point, the administrative journey was more than a notion. The Feelings Company almost pulled out of the project because the District requested The Feelings Company write the Memorandum of Understanding to conduct volunteer work at the school. This process did not make sense to The Feelings Company. We pushed through it, focusing on the goal.

Once the paperwork was completed, the girls practiced on Mondays and Thursdays and played games on Tuesdays and Fridays. The girls rested their bodies on Wednesdays, but they did not rest their minds. The incorporation of TIEL during Weekly Wednesday Wisdom classroom instruction provided a supportive and structured environment that enabled players to learn and practice skills essential for effective teamwork, such as self-awareness, self-regulation, responsible decision-making, social awareness, communication, respect for others, and collaboration toward a common goal. TIEL also fostered a sense of belonging, connection, and a supportive community, which is essential for positive social and emotional development. The Feeling Friends Community, together with the Winston-Salem Sportsmen Club, Inc., gathered friends and families to partner and support the girls with meals, water, snacks, game attendance, and, most importantly, love.

The success of girls' basketball teams is inextricably linked to developing social and emotional skills through neuroplasticity and SEL. Incorporating neuroplasticity and SEL practices combined with an outpouring of love weekly enhanced The Lady Mustangs' performance and provided long-lasting benefits in navigating complex relationships and situations beyond the court. Coaches and trainers should, therefore, prioritize developing and using neuroplasticity and SEL skills to foster overall well-being and success in girls' basketball teams.

The #1 in the Conference Parkland Lady Mustangs begin conference play on Monday, February 13th, at Parkland at 6:00 pm. We are the Mustangs. The Mighty, Mighty Mustangs!

The Feeling Friends Community is comprised of ordinary people doing extraordinary things!

Lotta Love,

-Karen

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